updated 05:35 pm EST, Wed November 24, 2010
Comcast, NBC push FCC to allow withholding video
A filing today revealed Comcast and NBC have been pressing the FCC to withdraw its proposal that they must allow online video deals if their merger is approved. The two hoped to cloud the issue by arguing that programming access rules were designed for "traditional linear delivery" and that it should be allowed to withhold video from companies like Amazon or Apple because of the Internet. Online video is too new to make it clear what would be unfair, it argued.
"In the nascent, rapidly-evolving online video market where there is no established business model, it would be difficult as a practical matter to compare distributors for purposes of determining whether a programmer had unreasonably discriminated against a distributor," the filing read.
The two raised the possibility of allowing such terms, but urged the agency to define what an online video distributor might be. They didn't say whether they would continue objections if the definition didn't fit their expectations.
Some of the concerns may center around services like ivi and the recently shut-down service FilmOn that have simply rebroadcast NBC signals under questionable legal grounds. A blanket removal of all conditions for online video, however, could let the merged Comcast-NBC withhold video from stores like iTunes to try and drive customers either to more lucrative cable TV bundles or to its own Internet services, such as Hulu or Xfinity TV. NBC already blocks Google TV and other platforms from reaching free Hulu or NBC-owned channels.
The two companies had been hoping for a merger by the end of the year, but it may be pushed until January or later as the FCC rushes to solve net neutrality terms in 2010.